This entry authored by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director with On The Mark Strategies.
A recent article about the San Francisco Giants and experiential marketing in Adweek magazine caught my eye (and even though I’m a lifetime Atlanta Braves fan, I’ll admit the same theory applies at any ballpark, bank or credit union.)
We have talked in the past about the importance of experiential marketing as it relates to financial institutions. In fact, we often advise bank and credit union partners during branding exercises they must learn to think like retailers and create memorable lifetime experiences for consumers in order to survive. The marketing machine behind the San Francisco Giants understands this.
The article states that “The success of a baseball team comes down to two things: selling tickets and selling sponsorships. The Giants are among the best of both of those because of the team and the experience they’ve created at the ballpark.”
Let’s face it — going to a major-league baseball game isn’t cheap. People aren’t going because it’s inexpensive. They’re going for the opportunity to create a memory for themselves and their family as well as following their favorite team. The same thing applies to a bank or credit union. Banks and credit unions, at least for consumers, are concerned. Nobody is going there because they are excited about it. They’re going because they pretty much have to to take care of financial business.
But what if your bank or credit union was able to, through experiential marketing, create a memorable enough experience that makes interacting with you an enjoyable thing? It’s not impossible. Banking giant Wells Fargo exposes consumers to virtual reality entertainment at various venues across the country. Umpqua Bank hosts a traveling digital art show. TD Bank has made a splash by funding customer community service projects.
Right about now you’re probably thinking “Okay, great – but these are giant banks with huge budgets. What can my smaller bank or credit union accomplish?” A lot, actually.
You don’t necessarily have to break the bank in order to create memorable experiences for your consumers. Often, it’s the little touches that mean the most, like using their first names, providing lobby refreshments or even remembering to send a dog treat back through the drive-through tube when you notice someone has a canine companion in the car with them. It also comes in providing top-notch digital and mobile products and services offerings. And you can make a great impression by being an active participant and sponsor in targeted community events.
In the past, marketers were able to get by with occasional newspaper ads and television commercials. In the new experience economy, they don’t have that luxury. Increasingly, banking credit union brand professionals must find ways to create memorable experiences for their consumers in order to stand out in a very competitive environment.
“These kids today…….” Is a phrase often uttered when discussing marketing strategies for reaching the Millennial Generation. “These kids today require different approaches.” “We have to reach these kids today.” “These kids today are so different.” The problem with that phrase? These kids today are having kids.
That’s right: consumers from the Millennial Generation are becoming parents. And that is a game changer for marketers. So what can credit union and banking professionals do to reach this critical demographic? You can read Millenials with Kids by Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler. The subtitle notes that this group is extremely powerful and different. And their book offers extremely powerful and different marketing approaches.
The authors note, “Many Millennials are parents now. Millenials are growing up and with that come more responsibilities. Now one in four Millennials is already a parent and that number is growing every day. As parents, Millennials are not changing their lifestyles to fit parenthood but are instead changing parenthood to fit their lifestyle.”
Below are three principles from the book and how we can apply them in the financial services world. For the remaining suggestions (and there are plenty of them), be sure to pick up a copy of Millennials with Kids.
(1) Millennial parents are not a homogeneous cohort
“Success will come to those who recognize and embrace this generation’s heterogeneity,” the authors note. They go on to identify multiple sub-segments of the Millennial parents: Family First, Style and Substance, Under Stress, Image First and Against the Grain.
- Application: When creating your brand plan and strategic plan, don’t have a target audience that says “Millennial Generation.” That is way too broad. Instead, dive deeper into the subsets that match best with your unique value proposition. Maybe it’s Millennial moms, DINKs (dual income, no kids) or one of the segments the authors identified above.
(2) Millennial parents are pragmatists
When it comes to their lifestyle and brands, the Millennial Generation is focused on practical application. They have lost faith in institutions (including financial institutions). Fromm and Vidler cite a survey that says only 10% of Millennials have a great deal of confidence in their bank. They go on to say, “If there is one overriding lesson….it’s that they are no longer as enigmatic as we once thought and there is a newfound pragmatism about them.”
- Application: Communicate what is real and authentic about your credit union or bank. Yes, cut the B.S. Where possible, show what a solid community citizen you are. Don’t just say you make a difference in the community but demonstrate practical examples of how you are doing it.
(3) Millennial parents are focused on time
“The new currency is time,” the authors say. They note how we communicate our marketing messages is radically different than just a few years ago. From Twitter to YouTube to Instagram, it’s all about communicating in short and visual messages.
- Application: Cut the copy. More than likely, you are writing and saying way too much about your financial institution in your marketing pieces. One of the best ways to avoid this trap is to conduct a marketing audit. This will help ensure your pieces are connecting with this critical younger market.
Those are just a few insights from the book on how to market to Millennials with kids. This generation has changed technology, entertainment and business. And now they are changing parenting. Which means you’ll have to change your marketing techniques as well.
You cannot market to the Millennial parent the same way you marketed to the Gen. X or Baby Boomer parent. If you want to learn what adjustments you should make to your marketing strategy with this unique group, then I highly suggest you read Millenials with Kids.
Ah, emojis. Those cute little digital images that people can’t seem to resist sticking in text messages, emails and social media platforms.
Remember the good old days when you actually had to type colon, dash, close parentheses to get a smiley face? How barbaric! There are now hundreds if not thousands of detailed emojis to help you cover pretty much every emotion, holiday, animal or situation. And if your smartphone doesn’t have the right emoji for you, you can even make your own.
Since brands are supposed to be the distilled essence of your bank or credit union identity, shouldn’t you be able to express it in terms of an emoji? If so, which one would you use? Following are a few suggestions.
“The Love Eyes Emoji” Are you all about the love? Is your bank or credit union in love with its consumers? And, more importantly, do you express this love to them, every day and in every possible interaction? If so, the “so in love” emoji might best suit your brand.
“The Frustrated/Confused Emoji” Is your brand confusing? Is your bank or credit union professing to be fast, easy and convenient — it is anything but that to your consumers? This is a brand-new gap and is extremely frustrating to consumers. You can’t say one thing and then actually behave in a different way. You must be true your brand.
“The Wearing Sunglasses Emoji” Is your brand super-cool? Do consumers just love you? Are you hip, with it, in with the times? Does your bank or credit union offer the latest electronic bells and whistles, all with a supercool Fonzie “heeeeeeey?” Then you might consider the “my future so bright I’ve got to wear shades” emoji.
“The Bored/Blah Emoji” Is your brand the opposite of cool? Are you boring, blah, square, etc.? If so, consumers have little reason to pick you out from the crowded consumer marketplace. If you are the traditional “teller cage and mahogany wood everywhere” financial institution, odds are consumers are bored to tears of you. Your brand could use some refreshing.
“The Pile of Poop Emoji” We’ll just leave this one right here. If this is you, you know you are.
That’s just a few of the thousands of emojis out there. If you had to pick one, or even a sequence of a few, to represent your brand, which would they be and why?
Before you know it, strategic planning season will be in full swing. Every bank or credit union takes time to build their plan for the upcoming years. But do they do plannning well? Sometimes we leave those strategic planning sessions frustrated, uninspired or even disappointed in the outcomes.
How do you take those strategy sessions from boring exercises in futility to engaging moments filled with hope and a positive sense of direction? Besides throwing out the SWOT, there are several practical steps you can take to improve your next meeting focused on long-range issues.
Here are five practical suggestions to have the best planning session ever:
- Address issues honestly—Nothing will ruin a planning session more than a group of people who agree on every issue. Make sure your team engages in lively debate. It’s okay to disagree. And the key word here is “honestly.” Too many times we hold back in meetings. Some people are afraid to speak their mind. Eliminate that attitude in your session. One way to address issues honestly is before the meeting have everyone write down their answers to this question, “What is the elephant in the room issue we must address in this session?”
- Prepare before the session—If you expect an amazing planning session to just happen magically, then keep right on wishing. Because it’s not going to happen without a lot of preparation. And by prep, I’m not referring to the location and meal details. Make sure everyone involved in the session completes a pre-meeting survey of key issues. Also circulate a few articles about relevant issues. Have everyone bring a list of talking points or issues they think you must address. One key to having the best planning session ever is to start that session way before it actually begins.
- Put away electronic distractions—Nothing kills a meeting more than someone’s cell phone ringing or text alert buzzing. But taking your session seriously is more than just turning your phone to vibrate or do not disturb. How many times have been in a meeting and half the people are glancing at their devices every five minutes? That means they are not fully engaged. And you’ll never have a great session without full engagement. One suggestion is to put all the devices on a side table so that no one is even tempted to look at them. If you take this drastic step then be sure to allow everyone to check those electronic leashes every hour or so.
- Use an outside facilitator—Some things in life are made for your “Do It Yourself” projects. Strategic planning is not one of those things. Am I biased on this point? Of course. But I can tell you from first hand experience when I was an executive at a financial institution that during the years we hired an outside facilitator the sessions were always better. Why? Because we could focus entirely on the key issues and the facilitator could expertly guide those discussions.
- Plan off-site—You don’t necessarily have to go out of town (although it helps) but at the very least don’t hold your sessions at one of your offices or the boardroom. That type of setting breeds familiarity. People will sit in the same seats and have the same views. Which means you might get the same results. It’s amazing how simply changing up the setting can impact how differently people think and how much more engaged they are.
Having the best planning session ever means doing that meeting differently. Take those five simple steps above and you will set yourself and your financial institution up for success.
Financial institutions can’t always predict what greatness will result from a strategic planning session. Great Lakes Credit Union’s session resulted in a unique branding element they call a member promise:
- We promise to listen, be responsive to your needs, simplify your financial life, and make it easy to do business with us.
- We promise to build valued relationships by discovering your needs and delivering relevant products and services.
- We promise to be knowledgeable and respectful: one transaction, one interaction and one member at a time.
This promise is what credit union employees use as a guide to live the credit union’s brand every day. Even better, the promise was developed by staff.
“Our operations staff are the ones who will be carrying out the member promise more than anyone else,” said Yvonne Bailey, senior vice president and COO of Great Lakes Credit Union. “It made sense to actively involve them in the process.”
Bailey asked all branch managers to go back to their staff and put together three sentences on how they serve their members. She and a team of employees then condensed the information and choose the three sentences most suggested by staff.
“It’s a brand promise, but I wanted to call it a member promise. I believe we already offer excellent member service at all points, but having this reminder visible in our branches will enhance the service we give and help differentiate us from competitors,” said Bailey.
The member promise is prominently displayed in the credit union’s branches and in support staff offices so all employee are on the same page.
“I am very conscious that we have to live the brand promise” said Bailey. “We’re not just going to hang it on the wall. We’re going to live it. I had someone tell me that she went into a financial institution and their promise was to treat their members likes family. When she asked if her child could use the bathroom, they told her she couldn’t because it was only for employees. That’s not living your promise.”
Some of the changes Great Lakes has made to better live its member promise include changing the name of it business development department to community development and changing the name of its marketing plan to a member plan. They also discussed and defined specific member demographics they would target to support the member promise, and they plan to continue their relationship management program.
“We call members who have not used our branches in a while. It’s not a sales call at all. We just call to let them know we we care about them, we miss them and we are here for them if they need anything. That seems to be working,” Bailey said.
How does your financial institution live its brand promise?